LiveSmart BC

The next stage of our conversation on the proposed Water Sustainability Act starts today

New to the Water Act Modernization Discussion? Click here for background

On December 17, we released the Policy Proposal on British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act on the Living Water Smart Blog.  The paper summarizes the key policies we’re proposing  and the overall direction we’re heading.  Thanks for your great response so far! 

Starting tomorrow we’ll get into the proposed new Water Sustainability Act in greater detail. As we post more information on the Blog, we’ll ask you to pose your questions and share your comments on the proposed Act directly to the Blog.

During the next five weeks we’ll also be inviting you to rank the comments and questions that other British Columbians pose on the Blog. 

While emails, letters and faxes are fine too, we really encourage you to share your comments and questions through the Blog. Having the conversation on the Blog allows others to build on your ideas. It also allows you to view and rank other British Columbians’ comments and questions, which will help us better understand what’s important to you as we move forward with the WSA.  This question and comment period will be open until February 21.

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96 comments to The next stage of our conversation on the proposed Water Sustainability Act starts today

  • Goudriaan,swing voters

    We strongly object to Water rights Trading (s5)which will leave consumers facing higher and higher water costs and which will trigger NAFTA. We object also to reduced protection for environmental flows (s1) – GUIDELINES just aren’t good enough.
    Regard,
    GBG

  • Craig Sapriken - Slocan Park Care Society

    On behalf of the membership of the Slocan Park Care Society and our local communities, we wish to submit the following response.

    We would like to begin by thanking those involved in the Water Act Modernization Plan. Seeking public comment on changes to management of such an important and often abused resource is essential, however, we wish to stress the manner in which the B.C. Government is choosing to “Modernize” our rights to water. While all the proposed regulations appear to levy the application and usage of water from a domestic standpoint, it only provides unnecessary drawbacks for the domestic user. Based on the charts and tables provided by the Ministry of Environment for domestic water usage, the domestic consumer falls well below the volumes as compared to the commercial and industrial sector, where much of the modernization and regulation should be enforced.

    Modernization of the Water Act may need some improvement for the domestic user, but improvement should be with protection to water sources; of watersheds and aquifers. While the majority of water usage in B.C. is from surface water supplies, there is very little, if any, protection offered by law that is clear and concise. In other words, the standards for crossing a stream, or removing a forest canopy in a water shed is written up by the very people granting the Timber Sales and harvesting the wood. Natural resource extraction, such as timber harvesting, occurs in watersheds throughout British Columbia on an ongoing basis. The Modernization Plan fails to sincerely look at the issue of resource removal in regulating protection of timing of flow, recharge and quality of our water. This issue poses a significant risk, particularly to small source domestic users.

    The mining of petroleum resources and raw ground materials poses potentially detrimental impacts to below ground water reservoirs. Many domestic water users rely on these reservoirs for their water supply. There is insufficient information in the Modernization Draft Plan that covers the protection of water during resource extraction.

    The final comment is regarding research, compliance and enforcement. With significant budget cuts to the Ministry of Environment, staff reductions for the much needed research on water data, the lack of concentration on water protection on priority areas, how does the Government expect to carry out any of these new modernization objectives? Decisions should not be made on statistical modeling, which may not reflect realities in specific locations. Monitoring stations and watershed health must be established, and data analysis, before decisions affecting future generations and eventualities are made. The protection and access to water, is a basic Human Right. It’s of our opinion that WAM is reallocating priorities and permissions of water consumption on the domestic user, and perhaps walking a fine line on our rights to ensuring the protection and access to clean water, while leaving the corporate policies for water protection very open to its own level of interpretation. These policies must be clear in intent, and specific in application. While water for human consumption is a basic right, water permitted for commercial uses is a privilege and must have constraints if impinging upon domestic users.

    We urge you to consider these thoughts when developing the Modernization Plan and please ask that you consider listening to the people WAM is hurting, our communities, the very people who are fighting to protect what is left of a clean and life giving resource to our well being.

    Respectfully,

    Craig Sapriken
    Slocan Park Care Society

  • Alice Nellestijn

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Policy Proposal for a new B.C. Water Sustainability Act.

    As a resident of British Columbia, I am thankful for our water resources and concerned about their long-term protection.

    I would like the new legislation to be more rigorous in its protection of water as a publicly-owned resource.

    To that aim, I would like the legislation to be drafted so that it unequivocally asserts the public ownership of water.

    The legislation needs to be clear that water rights are TEMPORARY, and that water is a PUBLIC resource. Any new legislation should unequivocally assert public ownership of water and clarify that water rights are merely a temporary right to use a public resource, and that right is subject to public interest and environmental protections that will be imposed as appropriate.

    The legislation should include a commitment to conducting assessments of watershed function BEFORE new water use allocations (licences) are given. It needs to legally establish “minimum” environmental flow standards in each major river or stream system. Water use and allocations should come only after a “sustainability boundary” outlining water needed for watershed function has been determined. The remaining water is what is then “available” for human use (i.e. licensing). This protects more than just minimum flows in streams, rivers, aquifers and lakes, and should include quality and timing of those flows. Ultimately there may be such designations in all of B.C.’s fresh water bodies; it’s sensible to start in priority sensitive (or critical) areas.

    
It should establish a regulatory system to ensure people don’t waste water, to mandate conservation during times of drought, and to prioritize water uses based on societal criteria.

    It should establish regulations for groundwater extractions in chronic problem areas.

    Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of B.C.’s water.

  • Peter Fang

    I am opposed to the Water should remain Crown-owned and the government may continue to license water usage rights to users instead of privatizing water rights. The current regime meaningfully recognizing a human right to water or a public trust over water. Privatization simply gives away a valuable public resource for free for the few incumbent users who will reap the benefit. Moreover, once water rights are privatized, the Canadian waters will fall into international free trade agreements to be allowed to trade. Once an international trade occurs, Canada cannot put a stop to future trading even if the resources become depleted because international trade agreements generally prohibits government intervention to stop flow of trade.

    • Peter Fang

      I am opposed to the new proposal to privatization. Water should remain Crown-owned and the government may continue to license water usage rights to users instead of privatizing water rights. The current regime meaningfully recognizing a human right to water or a public trust over water. Privatization simply gives away a valuable public resource for free for the few incumbent users who will reap the benefit. Moreover, once water rights are privatized, the Canadian waters will fall into international free trade agreements to be allowed to trade. Once an international trade occurs, Canada cannot put a stop to future trading even if the resources become depleted because international trade agreements generally prohibits government intervention to stop flow of trade.

  • Liz Hendriks

    UNDERSTANDING WHAT “ENVIRONMENTAL FLOW” MEANS.

    Environmental Flows are not about deregulation. Please see a webinar hosted today by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and Living Water Policy Project on what environmental flows are and why we need them. You can view the webinar at http://polis.na5.acrobat.com/p87258092/

  • Eileen O'Donnell

    I am alarmed at some of the implications of the new “modernized” water act. It appears that the notion of moving towards “water markets” is simply accepted, and to me this DOES indicate an agenda to privatize our water, despite proclamations to the contrary on the government blog. Should it be possible for private corporations to pump water from our aquifers and sell it at a profit? I say no. Also some of the discussion of “environmental flows measures” seem to indicate an intention to de-regulate. I fear that de-regulation stands to benefit private corporations, not the general public. I am a strong proponent of PUBLIC control of water. Water is a human right, and laws that allow private corporations to make decisions about – and profit from – a public common are dangerous. We need to keep water as a public trust, not a commodity. We need to protect water for fish and wildlife, for our children, for our grandchildren, and for generations to come.

  • Elsie Dean

    I would like an explanation of how a water market included in the new water act would work. Commodification of water in any form is privatization and contracicts water as a commons and human right.
    Jen Fisher-Bradley Women’s Food and Water Initiative
    February 4th, 2011 at 12:34 am · Reply
    we need an overarching statement that clearly places BC’s water in the commons as a basic UN Declared Human Right. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2010/gashc3987.doc.htm

    The overarching statement will help to give the legislation it’s spirit, so that when court cases arise there will be spirit and intent to guide the settlements

  • Elsie Dean

    I would like an explanation of how a water market included in the new water act would work. Commodification of water in any form is privatization and contracicts water as a commons and human right

  • Joan

    Water is definitely a common resource and should be shared by all. For those requiring large amounts, they should be required to return it to the its source in its original pristine condition. There are, however, actions that should be taken to save and preserve our clean water for domestic use, thereby, permitting use of unprocessed water for use by agriculture, industry, etc., and even in our toilets and gardens. Privatization is not in Canadians’ best interests for now or in the future.

  • Korie Marshall

    How do I rank the comments and questions? Shall I just tell you which ones I agree with?

  • Rob Abbott

    It is very clear to me that water is part of the commons from which we should all benefit in an equal manner. The function of government is to protect and manage these commons for the long term benefit of all forms of life. Without water, there is no life. To create policies that purport to make the foundation of life available for sale is misguided and irresponsible. The same can be said for policies which remove the regulation of environmental flows.
    Please take these proposals back to the drawing board and rewrite them so that there is permanent protection from turning water into a saleable commodity as well as strengthening the conservation of water in our province.

    Thanks Kindly

  • D Corbett

    I also believe that the use of water is a human right and belongs to each and every one of us, and for the use/management of water NOT to be handed over to the corporations.

  • M. Mckee

    I believe that water is a human right and should, at the very least, be protected for the citizens of BC. It should not be given over to the corporations.

  • Ann Grant

    Water rights should belong to the public. They should never be granted to private individuals or companies!

  • Toby Pike

    There seems to be general agreement about water trading so lets move on to other points.

    The latest policy proposal document is much too general to comment on in any meaningful way. Groundwater legislation, conservation flows, water use efficiency, water trading, etc. have been discussed in general terms in earlier submissions and ministry meetings. Each of these subjects are salient topics that need to be discussed in detail and each is open to a broad range of interpretation.

    Depending on point of view “Agricultural Water Reserve” will mean something quite different to a cattle rancher with a license on the Thompson River than to a cherry grower in the Okanagan who gets their water from a local utility.

    The devil is in the details and until we see draft legislation we will not have the information we need to comment in any meaningful way.

    I have been following this blog off and on and find much of the dialogue does not advance the discussion in a very informed way. The discussion on water tading/privatization has become a distraction from other substantive issues that need to be discussed. I think many people who should be commenting on the WSA will shy away from this forum as a source for serious discussion because of this type of idle speculation.

    We cannot understand the implications of the latest policy proposals until we see them in legislation.I encourage the province to commit to a full public discussion on draft legislation prior to final adoption of the WSA.

    • Nelle Maxey

      Thank you for stating the obvious, Toby. I fully concur. We must see the final legislation in order to fully understand what the government “solutions” to the stated “problems” are. Few details are currently available.

      A direct question for government” Do you intend to hold a consultation on the draft legislation?

    • Hollie Whitehead

      Well stated, Toby. Agreed.

      The public cannot make an educated decision without full disclosure of the details and sufficient time to consider them and present alternatives. But first, the public at large needs to know their water is even being discussed – invite the public now.

  • Laureen Barker

    I completely agree with your comments. I am ashamed that this government will not cease to sell our province and all it’s resources out from underneath the citizens.

  • Joey MacDonald

    For goodeness sake, if anyone from the government actually READS these comments, note that NOT ONE of the 50+ comments is in favor of this terrible act!

    There is ALREADY an overwhelming consensus on the issue of water rights in BC, and by putting forward this terrible act the BC Government are absolutely planting themselves on the wrong side of it.

  • Adam Veenendaal

    I am disappointed but hardly surprised at the prospect of having the province’s water rights being put up for grabs to corporate interests considering the mass-privatization of the past decade. That said, citizens (in particular, young voters) are becoming aware of the limited resources that we still hold as public interests and are doubly aware of the consequences of privatization. I urge this government to reconsider the water rights question and to employ more long-term and civic-oriented strategies for similar questions in future.

  • Sandra Nelken, B.C. resident

    Leaving water rights up to market forces is a complete abdication of the most important but at times admittedly difficult role of governance. Allocation of use of the COMMONS is the central and ongoing role of government. However it must remain part of the COMMONS. Any region may need water allocation flexibility in the future particularly given the high inaccuracy of using modeling with respect to predicting the effects of Climate Change. The most crucial effects are in fact predicted to be on hydrology. Of all times in modern history this is not the time to give away this responsibility.

    The common good must be considered and the right to allocate on this basis must be maintained over and above ANY OTHER RIGHT. Water for the vital requirements of human consumption, growing food and to a slightly less vital degree capturing energy, to meet local/regional needs, must be ENSHRINED as the top priority in any new act. Furthermore, the freedom to enjoy the rights of property may become moot and the ability to judge the value of any real property severely compromised.

    • W.G.Wilson-

      Water Rights MUST be PART of THE COMMONS AND MUST BE PROTECTED FOR ALL!!It is the responsibility of our Government to MAINTAIN This RIGHT!!WE DO NOT WANT OUR WATER MADE PRIVATE!!!!It is A COMMON GOOD and MUST BE ENSHRINED AS SUCH!!